There were twists, turns and high drama in Sugarloaf as a revitalized Isabeau Courdurier extended her lead in the 2022 Enduro World Series with a faultless technical display to take the win at the sixth round here in the US state of Maine. While Canada’s Jesse Melamed did the same, riding to another victory after his closest rivals - the USA’s Richie Rude and Jack Moir struggled with crashes and mechanicals.
Courdurier, who struggled through the first two of three back-to-back rounds in Canada and the USA, found her form and fitness again here in Sugarloaf storming to victory on the tricky roots and rocks of the brand-new venue. The 28-year-old struck first on the Pro Stage on Saturday and then again on Stage 2 to start off Sunday morning. In fact she didn’t drop out of the top four on a day she capped off with victory on the final of six stages.
In the end it was Britain’s Rebecca Baraona who would take second after a win on Stage 3, while fellow Brit Ella Conolly took third after a win on the penultimate stage of the day. The UK’s Harriet Harnden missed the chance to make round six three wins in a row after an arm injury flared up and prevented her from starting.
Courdurier will go into the final block of two European races with a 295-point lead over France’s Morgane Charre with Bex Baraona in third.
In the men’s race it looked like last week’s winner, Richie Rude might cruise to victory on home soil again until disaster struck for the American with crashes on the highly-technical stages 4 & 5, the second of which injured his shoulder. Rude had won Stage 3 by some 14 seconds to take a lead of more than 21 seconds into the second half of the race. But it wasn’t to be after Rude washed his front wheel out on stage 4 and then damaged his shoulder while crashing into a tree on stage 5, losing swathes of time in the process.
2021 series champ Jack Moir also looked like he might give Melamed a run for his money but a puncture and a damaged rear wheel on the rocky start of Stage 3 quashed his day’s ambitions, costing him some 10 minutes. Adding insult to injury he would puncture again on Stage 4 to finish well down the order.
It was Martin Maes who came closest to the Melamed in the end, just 3.66s back after nearly 27 minutes of racing, with Saturday's Pro Stage winner Matt Walker in third. Melamed will don the yellow plate of series leader at the seventh round of the EWS in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana in mid-September. Rude trails Melamed now by 450 points and Maes is in third. 2021 champ Moir is left with a mountain to climb after dropping to eighth after finishing the day in 107th.
All eyes will now switch to the final block of racing in Europe with two more rounds in Crans Montana, Switzerland and Loudenvielle in France. Additionally, the all-important selection for the Trophy of Nations teams will be on the riders' minds over the next few weeks as national, industry and privateer line-ups are soon to be announced for the showdown in Finale Ligure, Italy.